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A BIG improvement in the on-time running of trains in southeast Queensland has come as figures reveal more trains now run red lights.
Since the LNP won government in March 2012 and brought in new chairman Glen Dawe, on-time running in peak periods has improved from 92.8 per cent of services to 96 per cent.
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Premier Campbell Newman made mention of the achievement in Parliament last month when asked about Mr Dawe's appointment to the $500,000 CEO position.
But the number of "signals passed at danger" (SPAD) climbed 19.4 per cent in the past year, from 36 to 43.
The increase takes the SPAD rate per million kilometres to above theQueensland Rail best-practice target of 2.41 - to 2.8.
Despite the rise, a Queensland Rail spokeswoman said over three years the rate of signals passed at danger had improved since 2010-11, when 45 were recorded.
"We aim to be the safest railway in Australia and we have a strategy in place to manage the number of signals passed at danger," the spokeswoman said.
"Our SPAD strategy focuses on managing the risk of human error and using technology and engineering to reduce the likelihood of a SPAD occurring."
She said other measures included a trial of "innovative engineering solutions and new advances in technology to further reduce the number of signals passed at danger".
But Queensland Rail insiders have suggested intense pressure on train crews to keep to schedule is to blame for the decline in safety standards.
One concerned train crew member went so far as to accuse management of "putting lives at risk to inflate on-time running targets".
He said in the worst example, a full travel train (The Spirit of the Outback) was ordered to go through the scene of an overhead dewirement at Bowen Hills station, resulting in a severe electric shock to one of the drivers.
"It was ordered to go through before the scene had been inspected or cleared by safety personnel," said the crew member.
"It put the lives of all passengers and staff on that train at risk."
Robert Dow from commuter advocacy group RAIL Back on Track said the rise in SPAD was of concern.
"That is a reflection of some pressure to improve on-time performance particularly at peak times," Mr Dow said.
"It's another indication we need automatic train protection on the rail network."
Automatic train protection is a system that relays signal, track speed and other information to trains and can automatically slow or stop trains if they approach signal at too high a speed.
It is in place on the rail network outside of southeast Queensland.
This article first appeared on www.couriermail.com.au
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